[Extract from Trekking With the T-Team: Central Australian Safari 1981]
Thursday July 23, 1981
At 7:00am on an overcast morning, we skipped breakfast to pack and then pile in the Land Rover. Dad turned the ignition. The Rover squeaked and then nothing. Dad twisted the key again. Nothing. ‘I think we’ll need to crank the engine,’ Dad said.
My brother lumbered to the front of the vehicle, crankshaft in hand. He stuck it in the appropriate hole and wound it round and round. The engine whirred and stopped. My brother pumped the crank, winding it non-stop. Phut! No sound. Not even a click. He kicked the Rover’s tyre.
Dad stomped over to his son.
‘It’s stuffed,’ my brother said.
‘I think we forgot to pray,’ Dad said and motioned for the T-Team to gather around. He then clasped his hands and prayed, ‘Lord, fix the Land Rover and make it start.’
C1, my older cousin raised his eyebrow and sniggered.
Dad climbed back in the Rover. The rest of us loitered on the stony ground. ‘No point climbing in and out of that useless rust bucket,’ I muttered.
‘Have faith,’ TR, our family friend said.
The engine roared to life. As the Rover chugged in waiting, we scrambled aboard and began our journey back to Indulkana.
When we arrived at this Indigenous community, Dad’s teacher friend, Mr. W and his wife welcomed us into their tin-clad home.
I had the honour to shower first. I basked in the warm rainwater, cascading over my dusty body. Lathers of shampoo transformed my hair from straw into soft locks. Clean locks.
After breakfast and washing clothes, we ate pizza for lunch. Afterwards Mrs. W gave us a guided tour of the school. The kids were having an easy time as most of the Indigenous teacher aids had gone to attend an initiation ceremony at Ernabella. School over for the day, we checked out the craft centre and visited the store.
My brother, cousins and I wandered back to the W’s empty handed. The store, with limited supplies, stocked nothing we wanted. Dad hovered around the trailer tightening ropes.
‘Who’s been raiding the tucker box?’ roared Dad.
C1 shrugged. ‘Dunno.’
‘Not me,’ my brother said.
‘Not I,’ said younger cousin, C2.
‘What’chya looking at me for?’ I screeched. ‘I didn’t do it.’
‘Well, someone did.’ Dad’s ears tinged red. ‘I remember latching it, and now it’s not.’
‘Probably TR,’ C1 said with a snort. ‘He looked pretty contented when I saw him earlier this afternoon.’
Dad glared at me. ‘Oh, I don’t think it was him.’
I stomped my foot. ‘Why do I always get the blame?’ As the wind whirled through the empty compound, I stormed into the W’s house.
By evening, we had camped in a creek about twenty kilometres (fifteen miles) from Indulkana. High gusts of wind hampered our attempts to set up camp. TR created a windbreak out of a blue bonnet from a deserted utility; one of many car bodies dumped in the desert.
Dad searched through the items placed on the tarpaulin. ‘Where’s the corned beef? It’s not in the tucker box.’
‘The dingo must have got it,’ TR said.
‘That’s not funny,’ Dad snapped.
‘Nah, nah, I saw a dingo hanging around the Rover.’ TR waved his arms about. ‘I shooed it away. It was a big one. Mean looking. It stopped and looked at me. I threw stones at it and it growled at me, then slunk off.’
‘With something in its mouth, I presume,’ C1 said.
‘Ah well, we’ll have to have something different, then,’ Dad said. ‘Everyone pitch in and help get tea ready.’
My cousins cooked spaghetti—cold by the time we ate it, Dad made damper, my brother stewed apples, and TR baked custard—burnt. I washed up.
[Bed-down for the night]
© Lee-Anne Marie Kling 2017
Photos: Feature—Brilliant Sunrise © C.D. Trudinger 1981
1) The Rover © C.D. Trudinger 1981
2) Bed-down For the Night © C.D. Trudinger 1981